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Eating Right

Eating the right foods and the right amounts of foods can help you live a longer, healthier life. Research has proven that many illnesses—such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure—can be prevented or controlled by eating right. Getting the nutrients you need, such as calcium and iron, and keeping your weight under control can help. Try to balance the calories you get from food with the calories you use through physical activity (select for more information about physical activity). It is never too late to start eating right. Here are some helpful tips.

Eat a variety of foods, especially:

Square bullet image  Vegetables. Choose dark-green leafy and deep-yellow vegetables.

Square bullet image  Fruits. Choose citrus fruits or juices, melons, and berries.

Square bullet image  Dry beans (such as red beans, navy beans, and soybeans), lentils, chickpeas, and peanuts.

Square bullet image  Whole grains, such as wheat, rice, oats, corn, and barley.

Square bullet image  Whole grain breads and cereals.

Eat foods low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, especially:

Square bullet image   Fish.

Square bullet image   Poultry prepared without skin; lean meat.

Square bullet image   Low-fat dairy products.

Weight Control

Weighing too much or too little can lead to health problems. After age 45, many people gain too much weight. You can control your weight by eating healthy foods and being physically active. For more information, select the next section, "Physical Activity."

Ask your health care professional:

Square bullet image   What is a healthy weight for me?

Square bullet image   What are some ways I can control my weight?

Keep track of your weight. Use your personal prevention chart.

Physical Activity

Research shows that physical activity can help prevent at least six diseases: heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity (excess weight), diabetes, osteoporosis, and mental disorders, such as depression. Physical activity also will help you feel better and stay at a healthy weight. Research suggests that brisk walking can be just as good for you as an activity such as jogging. Try to do a total of 30 minutes of constant physical activity, such as fast walking, most days of the week.

Before you start being physically active:

Square bullet image   Talk with your doctor about ways to get started.

Square bullet image   Choose something that fits into your daily life, such as walking, gardening, raking leaves, or even washing windows.

Square bullet image   Choose an activity you like, such as dancing or swimming.

Square bullet image   Try a new activity, like biking.

Square bullet image   Ask a friend to start with you, or join a group.

Don't quit:

Square bullet image   Make time for physical activity, start slowly, and keep at it.

Square bullet image   If the weather is bad, try an exercise show on TV, watch an exercise tape in your home, walk in the mall, or work around the house.

Safe Sex

Sexually transmitted diseases. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, are passed easily from one person to the next through sexual intercourse. STDs are more common in people under the age of 50. But, if you or your partner have other sexual partners, you are at risk for STDs. You can lower your chances of getting an STD by using a latex condom every time you have sex. If you have not taken this step, you may need testing for STDs.

HIV and AIDS. AIDS is a disease that breaks down the body's ability to fight infection and illness. AIDS is caused by the HIV virus. By preventing HIV infection, you can prevent AIDS.

People in midlife and those who are older can become infected with HIV. In fact, 10 percent of all AIDS cases in the United States have occurred in people over the age of 50.


 Just as the right kind of fuel is important for Navy jets, so is the right kind of fuel for the human body to support optimal performance. The HPW Department understands the barriers to eating healthy. We have the educational resources and materials you need to help you select nutrient dense, healthy food for optimal performance, disease prevention, and recovery.



Sailors and Marines assigned to Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center run with students from Princess Anne Elementary School during an Adopt-A-School program event at the 7th annual Beach Fun Run at Dam Neck Annex. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Indra Bosko/Released)

Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States and worldwide.1 Many young people think of heart disease, a form of cardiovascular disease, as something to worry about as you get older. However, it's not unusual to see young adults in their 20s and 30s exhibiting unhealthy behaviors that can contribute to the development of heart disease, such as smoking, poor diet, and lack of physical activity. They may assume they can stop the behavior and "right the wrong" before any damage is done. The truth is, although heart disease is normally diagnosed later in life, it is a progressive condition. By the time symptoms are present, damage has already occurred.

The Asymptomatic Attack

There are many forms of heart disease, the most common of which is coronary heart disease (sometimes called coronary artery disease). Coronary heart disease (CHD) occurs when the walls of the arteries supplying blood to the heart become narrow or hardened due to plaque build-up. The build-up is called atherosclerosis.2 Atherosclerosis occurs over time; contributing factors can include modifiable risks such as3:

  • Smoking
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of physical activity 
  • Being overweight or obese
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stress
  • Heavy alcohol use

As the plaque accumulates, most will not experience any symptoms or have any indication that there is a problem. By the time an individual experiences symptoms, the plaque has often been building up for decades. For many people, the first sign of atherosclerosis is when the build-up has narrowed the arteries enough that the heart muscle does not receive sufficient amounts of blood and oxygen. This causes chest pain, or angina, and can lead to a heart attack. Heart attack symptoms vary, and women often experience more vague symptoms than men, such as nausea, back pain, extreme fatigue, or indigestion.4 Although lifestyle changes may be all some individuals need to treat atherosclerosis, others will need daily medications, medical procedures, or surgery.

Latest Findings

Current research is confirming what health professionals have believed for years – certain unhealthy behaviors in young adulthood have a negative physical impact on one's body, even though they may feel healthy and fit. The impact of an unhealthy lifestyle is not always immediately evident, and negative outcomes like cardiovascular disease develop over time. In fact, research has shown atherosclerosis to be present in the arteries of 20 and 30 year olds. Atherosclerosis was found to be more prevalent among study subjects with behavioral risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.5

An additional concern for the military population is emerging research linking post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and heart disease.6-8 Although the reasons why remain unclear, studies indicate individuals with PTSD have a higher prevalence of heart disease, even when taking into account health behaviors that increase risk for heart disease such as smoking, depression, and obesity.7,8 While PTSD is present in both veteran and non-veteran populations, it is much more common among veterans, particularly those exposed to combat.6 Ongoing research to understand the long-term effects of PTSD are continuing and will be important for both service members and providers.

A Pill-Free Prescription at Any Age

Although the numbers about heart disease seem grim, the good news is heart health can be improved at any age. Here are some tips for delaying or preventing heart disease:

  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats and salt.
  • Participate in 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.
  • Increase daily activity level (park far away from door, take the stairs, etc.).
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Practice positive stress management techniques.
  • Know your numbers. Talk to your doctor to ensure your numbers fall within the recommended ranges:
    • Total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL with triglycerides less than 150 mg/dL
    • Blood pressure less than 120/80 mmHg
    • Fasting glucose (blood sugar level after you have not eaten for 8 – 12 hours) less than 100 mg/dL
    • Female waist circumference less than 35 inches
    • Male waist circumference less than 40 inches

For more information on how you can reduce your risk for heart disease, visit the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center's Heart Health Toolbox and check out the American Heart Association's "The Simple 7."  


1. The top 10 causes of death. World Health Organization Media Centre. Updated July 2013. Accessed January 15, 2014.

2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What is coronary heart disease? Updated August 23, 2012. Accessed January 10, 2014.

3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Who is at risk for coronary heart disease? Updated August 23, 2013. Accessed January 10, 2014.

4. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What are the signs and symptoms of heart disease? Updated September 26, 2011. Accessed January 16, 2014.

5. Webber B, Seguin P, Burnett D, et al. Prevalence of and Risk Factors for Autopsy-Determined Atherosclerosis Among US Service Members, 2001-2011. JAMA. 2012;308(24):2577-2583. Accessed January 10, 2014.

6. Norris F, Sloan L. Understanding Research on the Epidemiology of Trauma and PTSD. PTSD Research Quarterly. 2013;24(2-3):1-13. Accessed January 16, 2014.

7. Vaccarino V, Goldberg J, Rooks C, et al. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Incidence of Coronary Heart Disease : A Twin Study. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2013;62(11):970-978. Accessed January 15, 2014.

8. Boscarino J. A Prospective Study of PTSD and Early-Age Heart Disease Mortality Among Vietnam Veterans: Implications for Surveillance and Prevention. Psychosom Med. 2008;70(6):668–676. Accessed January 17, 2014.